The Southern Jaguars marched down the field on the game’s first possession to open a 7-0 lead over the Tigers, and trailed by just 10 at the half (17-27), but the Memphis defense didn’t allow a score in the 2nd half as the Tigers rolled to a 55-24 victory over the FCS opponent from the SWAC.
Freshmen Lead The Way
Kenny Gainwell will take home The Barnburner’s Player of the Week honors for Week 2, as the freshman running back was forced into the workhorse (as much as that is a thing in this particular game) role and responded in the best possible way.
Gainwell was handed the ball 16 times on the day and responded with 85 yards, including a long scamper of 46 and two trips to the Memphis end zone. He also caught 4 passes for 38 yards and another touchdown, giving him 3 on the day.
Fellow freshman, Kylan Watkins ran for 35 yards and another touchdown, with yet another freshman, Rodrigues Clark, churning out another 25 yards and a score. The Tigers needed the young players to step up in the absence of senior Patrick Taylor, who was injured late in last week’s game against Ole Miss. Taylor’s status remains unclear.
Air Attack Looked Better…
Before we dive into Brady White and the passing game – I know there is a major difference in the talent level of defenders on Ole Miss, and even the Tigers future in-conference opponents, than the FCS Jaguars. However, what we saw on Saturday – which was White going 17 for 21 and racking up 337 yards and 2 TD’s – was better than the alternative of him sucking, if you’re a Memphis fan. Sure, he may have some deficiencies, but we still want him to continue to improve on those and lead this team to great things and that is exactly what he accomplished today.
White connected with his favorite target, Damonte Coxie, 6 times on the day for 112 yards. According to Memphis Football, this was Coxie’s 6th career 100-yard receiving game. Kedarian Jones hauled in just 2 catches but amassed 75 yards thanks to some nifty moves in the video below.
Senior Antonio Gibson got the Tigers on the board as his only catch of the day came in the first quarter, with the Tigers trailing 7-0. White found Gibson coming across the middle of the field on a crossing route before Gibson made several Southern defenders miss on his way to the crib for 6. Tight end Joey Magnifico also brought in 3 catches for 74 yards. Again, you liked what you saw all around from the Tigers offense today.
Well, except for the time Brady White was violently sacked from the blind side, fumbled the ball and Southern scooped it up and returned it 74 yards for the Jaguars only score of the 2nd half. We won’t talk about that today, because it’s time to enjoy being 2-0.
The Defense Starts Slow, Finishes Strong
As I mentioned at the top, Southern marched the ball down the field in a minute and 32 seconds on the opening drive on their way to an easy score. They ran the ball 4 times for 75 yards and found themselves up 7-0 after Jamar Williams reached paydirt from 7 yards out. This is a Memphis defense that completely eliminated the run last week against Ole Miss, so naturally Memphis fans began having flashbacks of past defensive units.
To open the 2nd quarter, the Jaguars put together a 17-play, 75-yard drive that eclipsed 10 minutes of actual game time, that ended with Ladarius Skeleton finding Jeremias Houston in the end zone from the 4-yard line to pull the Jags within 3 at 17-14. Again, Southern did most of their damage on the ground as they methodically moved the ball down the field.
During that drive, Austin Hall did this:
Hall finished with 3 tackles on the day, including 2 in a row on the goal line. Fellow linebackers JJ Russell and Tim Hart had 4 tackles and a sack each. Sanchez Black and La’Andre Thomas of the secondary led the defense with 6 and 5 tackles, respectively. The Southern quarterbacks combined to complete just 8 of 19 passes for 90 yards on the day.
The Special Teams unit, lead by Coach Pete Lembo, saw Rodrigues Clark block a punt late in the 1st quarter that was scooped and taken 27 yards for a TD by linebacker Keith Brown.
While we’re on special teams, Riley Patterson went 2-2 on the day including a 49-yarder for his first points of the season.
I’m going to chalk the early defensive struggles up to the team just not being as ready to play as they needed to be coming off a big win last week and facing an FCS opponent this week. It is no excuse, but mistakes like that are what you hope to eliminate throughout the course of a season, so we’ll see how Adam Fuller’s unit responds next week at South Alabama. I’m not ringing the alarm yet.
The Tigers travel to Mobile, Alabama next weekend to face the South Alabama Jaguars, of the Sun Belt Conference. South Alabama fell to #24 Nebraska 35-21 in their opener and play host to Jackson State, which represents the SWAC like Southern.
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[Header Image: Michael A Smith/ GoTigersGo.Com]